Background: The International Prognostic Staging System (IPSS) for myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) was developed predominately in patients of European ancestry and is not validated in Asians. In a recently revised IPSS (IPSS-R), several new prognostic variables are included, i.e. age, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance score (ECOG PS), serum ferritin and lactate dehydrogenase. Chinese with MDS offer a unique opportunity to distinguish the prognostic impacts of haemoglobin (HGB) concentration, red blood cell (RBC) transfusions and serum ferritin because in China, patients rarely receive RBC transfusions unless the HGB concentration is <6.0 g/dl. Methods: We studied prognostic variables in 191 untreated Chinese primary patients with MDS intermediate-1 (INT-1) in the IPSS. Results: Serum ferritin level ≥500 µg/l at diagnosis was a strong independent predictor of survival. Although baseline serum ferritin level was inversely correlated with baseline HGB, it was the serum ferritin, not the baseline HGB level, that was significantly correlated with survival in Chinese patients. A new prognostic scoring system including the ECOG PS, absolute neutrophil level, serum ferritin, percentage of bone marrow blasts and poor karyotype was developed for Chinese with IPSS INT-1 MDS. Conclusions: This revised scoring system identified a subgroup of Chinese with MDS and INT-1 IPPS who have a poor prognosis and may benefit from more intensive therapy.